Mr. A. is an aquatic education consultant in natural resource management for a state agency. For the last four years he has been teaching a wide range of students, kindergarten through graduate school, about fish, aquatic invertebrates, watershed health and fisheries. Most of his teaching takes place in rural Alaska in small village schools in either Eskimo or Athapascan Indian villages. He enrolled in the SoS online course, The Diversity of Fishes, in Summer 2005 because he wanted to strengthen his knowledge of systematics and cladistics.
Enriching content knowledge: Learning about cutting edge methods for classification
The SoS online course provided Mr. A. with a rare opportunity to learn more about cladistics—an approach to classification using DNA sequence.
The best thing for me was cladistics. Generally it is taught as a course in and of itself and it isn't tied directly to fish. So this was really neat to be able to study fish which is the bulk of what I talk about in my job. We looked at different ways of classifying them and that is something that generally is not offered at the university level.
Enriching lessons: Incorporating feedback from experts, new strategies and content
The lessons Mr. A. submitted for his SoS final project have been included in the Alaska Department of Fish and Game K-12 curriculum. These lessons incorporate new fishes and classification activities that hadn't been in the curriculum before. One of the great advantages of the SoS online course for Mr. A. was the ability to submit these lesson plans to experts in the field and to get feedback. In addition, Mr. A. learned how to look at the anatomy of a fish in a systematic way and this is a process he has shared with his students.
There is the Upward Bound program, which is a national program for bringing high school students into a university setting. We went out and were digging up juvenile lampreys. A lamprey is a really interesting type of fish. When they are young, they don't look like fish and they live down in the sediment for years and years. We were down digging them up and studying their adaptations for living in that environment and that lesson, as far as looking at the anatomy of a fish in a systematic way, came directly from the course.
Mr. A. has also adapted systematics and different methods of classification for incorporation into his lessons for elementary students.
I am sharing it with elementary students. Some of this information is being shared with students who would either never hear it, or would only hear it if they chose to get a masters or a doctorate in some sort of biology. That is kind of neat that I am sharing things that are pretty cutting edge, that wouldn't be shared otherwise.
SoS online courses: Accessible professional development for remote locations
Mr. A. described having only one other option, besides online courses, for upper level courses-the local university. He found the SoS online course to be comparable to taking a course at a university and felt it was a great option for people like himself who don't have access to a number of different institutions.
The SoS online course was on par with actually taking a course at a university and physically being in the room. We definitely had to look at specimens and do some anatomical metrics counting things on them, but that was the only part where you really felt like this would be a little bit better if you were in a classroom with the professor. But on the other hand, all of the discussions, the papers, the video, the chats, the emails, it was on par with a one on one, physically being at a university course.
back to top